Genocea Biosciences

Founded in 2006 in Cambridge, Mass., Genocea Biosciences develops novel vaccine and immunotherapy programs that stimulate the T cell arm of the immune system. The company aims to change the course of a wide range of diseases — including cancer, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases — by producing medicines that are both more effective and cheaper to manufacture than existing alternatives.

Genocea's approach is built on a proprietary technology platform, known as ATLAS, that uses human immune cells to identify relevant antigens from libraries of pathogen proteins. By testing the immune response of hundreds of human T cells to thousands of potential antigens, ATLAS zeroes in on the proteins that are likely to be most successful in vaccines or immunotherapy.

Since 2008, Genocea has partnered with Richard Malley, MD, an infectious diseases expert and senior physician in medicine at Boston Children's Hospital. With funding from PATH, a nonprofit dedicated to global health innovation, Genocea and Malley are working together on a vaccine for pneumococcal infections (such as pneumonia and meningitis), which account for roughly 1 in 10 child deaths around the world.

Genocea and Malley extended the ATLAS platform into animal models and screened a library of pneumococcal proteins in mice to identify those that stimulate a certain T cell (TH17 cells). These early tests led to the development of a potential vaccine known as GEN-004, which is designed to protect against all strains of pneumococcus bacteria. In a Phase 1 clinical trial in 2014, GEN-004 was shown to be safe and produced the expected immune response in study participants, clearing the way for additional trials.

News and highlights